Louisiana Junior has Big-time Ability

Joe McKnight of John Curtis Christian High School (River Ridge, La.) is the next in a long line of talented football players that have made the school's tradition one of the richest in the state.

J.T. Curtis is a coach that knows a talented player when the strap on the helmet. He played for the legendary Frank Broyles at Arkansas, and he has had a number of top players work through his system. Junior Joe McKnight is a player that coach Curtis believes has the ability to be very good.

"Joe is 6-0, 190 pounds," coach Curtis said of his standout athlete. "It will really depend on where they want to put him. He can play either side of the ball. He is in a category of a guy like Reggie Dupard, who an All-American at SMU, Chris Howard who was a starting tailback at Michigan, and Jonathan Wells who was a starting tailback at Ohio State. He's in that category. He's got the chance to be that kind of player."

"Joe is the kind of guy that can play on either side of the ball," Curtis said. "He's played both corner and safety for us on defense. He's a return specialist on punt and kick-offs. He's also played running back and receiver for us.

"After we got back from the hurricane Katrina deal he mostly played on defense," coach Curtis said of his McKnight's two-way ability. "He played some offense, but mostly on defense and that was just to solidify our defense until we matured a little bit in the secondary. Then about the ninth game of the season, which was our fourth game of the year, he started to move more toward offense and played more on the offensive all the way through the playoffs."

John Curtis made a playoff run that ended with another state championship, the schools eighth in ten years. Coach Curtis described McKnight as a player that could excel on either side of the ball at the next level.

"I've had him since he was real young, and what you don't know about them is if they're going to grow," Curtis said of McKnight. "But even as a young kid in grammar school it was obvious that he had great vision, good feet and could make something happen. What you don't know is if he was going to grow, which he's done. He really brings all the things that you want as a player on either offense or defense.

"He runs well enough where he could be a big corner. He ran a 10.7 100-meters in the state track meet last year as a sophomore. Hitting people is not a problem for him. Being physical is not a problem.

"He does a good job with the ball in his hands. He's extremely physical," coach Curtis said of McKnight as a running back. "He breaks tackles really well. He makes people miss in the open field. He knows where the blocking is going to be and he takes advantage of it. He sets up his blocking well."

"It would not surprise me to see him play next year between 200 and 205 pounds," he added.

With the success that John Curtis has had over the years, coach Curtis is very familiar with the recruiting process and he expects McKnight will see his fair share of scholarship offers.

"I'm sure he'll have interest from everybody," coach Curtis said of McKinght's appeal to colleges. "he's that kind of player. We're not really talking about that yet. We've been doing this for a long time and we want Joe to focus on the remainder of his junior year in terms of basketball and track and then we'll work toward interest as his senior year approaches. Right now we're trying to keep him focused on what he needs to do in his junior year, and to stay focused and moving in a positive direction, so we're not really concerned what schools are interested in him, I don't think that will be a problem."

Notre Dame is one of those schools that appears to be interested in McKnight, but their interest in players doesn't stop with McKnight.

"They've actually been writing two or three guys for me," Curtis said of Notre Dame's recruiting efforts. "They've been writing Jacob Dufrene, who is an outside linebacker. They've been writing Joe McKnight, and I believe I received a letter yesterday for Andrew Nierman, an offensive lineman. It's going to be a good junior class, there's a bunch of good juniors.

"I've known coach Haywood for 15 years. He hasn't been down yet, but I'm sure he will be. I've known Mike since LSU. Mike and I go back a long way, so I'm sure he'll enjoy recruiting him (McNight). "

"Jacob is a 4-3 outside linebacker," Curtis said of Dufrene. "Probably 6-2, 212 pounds. He runs really well. Plays the run really well. He's able to play the pass well. He's a guy that can rush the passer. He could put his hand on the ground and be an excellent pass rusher. He'll do an excellent job and be a good recruit."

"Andrew is 6-2, 300-pounds," Curtis said of Nierman. "He's a big, strong, powerful kid that's started for us since he was a freshman. He'll probably be a center in college, but plays offensive guard for us. He's a guy that moves his feet extremely well. He's a powerful blocker. He's not one of your 6-5 type guys, but he's one of those guys that carries 300 pounds very well. He runs well and will be an excellent offensive lineman in college. He enjoys finishing off the block and then helping the guy off the ground."

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories